This is an impromptu blog, breaking up my "5 pillars of EQ" schedule because a few of my friends have been chanting at me "write, write, write, write!" with regard to an experience I had last week.
Writing about this experience is not as easy as usual because an element of the story is about my Christian faith. I make it no secret that I'm a Christian - refer to "My moral platform" in blog archives - but at the same time I make a point in life of NOT being a "Bible basher". I am more than happy to speak about my Christianity and how it impacts me - that's part of me holding to my values of transparency - but at no point will I start belting people over the head with preaching, expectations or demands. So to be clear from the outset, this post will not be an attempt at trying to convert you! But you need to understand that I'm a Christian to understand the context of this blog, and the reason why my friends (of which these ones are not Christians by the way) are chanting at me to "write, write, write".
So begins the story:
My sons are close in age, and this year - thankfully - their ages aligned for them to be able to play in the same cricket team together. They play with a lot of mates, of whom their Mums are also my friends (insert smiley face). Last week our team made it into the grand final - and we won! - but that's not actually the story. The story is about a club affiliate from an opposing team.
I have previously heard a lot about this club affiliate because he has a reputation. That reputation consists of having a loud, smart, cursing and taunting mouth. In previous weeks leading up to the grand final, this man John* (*clearly not his real name) had been spoken about at our club because of incidents occurring with other teams and other clubs of which people had been quite upset (I know this is convoluted communication, but even though John upset me, I am not out for a witch hunt, so want to be careful as to what I say). John seemed to have a strong, consistent reputation across various sporting arenas, teams and clubs. I was sad about this but only considered it in passing until 2 weeks ago when, in another conversation someone said "yes, he's a Reverend", at which point my ears pricked up and my internal voice shouted a loud "WHAT?" into my ears. At that time nothing more was said about John's identity, so despite my fleeting disappointment at the obvious hypocrisy of the situation, I thought nothing more of it.
This is the juncture in the blog where it's imperative for me to add that being a Christian does not mean I think I'm morally supreme to anyone else on earth. Nor does it mean that I think reverends/pastors/ministers are morally supreme either. I believe the Bible, and the Bible says that all human beings are in the same situation and have equal worth. So this is not about a moral high-ground, more about the literal "practice what your preach" phenomenon that can apply to anyone. If a pastor is preaching the Bible, they should be preaching "love your neighbour as yourself" type messages, and therefore too, aiming to live this out in their lives. None of us are perfect, and I know when I'm in a bad mood I definitely struggle to love anybody, let alone my neighbour! I have had some EPIC fails in my life, none of which would fit into this blog....or ten books truth be told. I have at times treated people badly, hurt people, thought and done things that I say I don't agree with, but done them anyway. However, the idea of a being a Christian person is to be growing more like Jesus who always loved and treated everybody with dignity and respect. So when I fail - I hope - that I can recognise my mistakes and aim to do things better next time. It's the direction not the perfection! That being said, even though we all make mistakes, the reality of a Christian person - let alone a minister - holding such a consistently foul reputation in the community really bothers me because it brings all Christians, and Jesus, into disrepute.
Back to the story.
The cricket grand final was played over two days. Being a grand final there were many extra club affiliates and spectators at the game, which had not been the case during the normal home and away season. On the first day our team were batting. All the boys who weren't on the field were seated nicely together in front of the club house, watching and supporting their team mates out on the pitch. Many of the parents and other club people were scattered all around the ground. I was seated with a group of parents and our club president in front of the club house, whereupon which I noticed a man approaching around the oval with a swagger that could have rivaled Viv Richards or John Wayne (I pay a lot of attention to people's body language, it doesn't always tell you everything, but you can get some very strong hints and insights into how someone is feeling and what they might be thinking by assessing their body language). This swaggering man - who's shoulders nearly touched the ground such was the depth of the swagger (OK maybe that's an exaggeration on my part, but you get the drift) - caught the attention of multiple people and there was whispering banter to the tune of "who the heck is this toss bag approaching?" before he even arrived at the club house. The moral of this part of the story is that it didn't take a body language geek like me, to notice that this dude was trying to convey some serious attitude.
Swagger man then entered the front of the club house and approached the boys in our team speaking to them indicating they should "be scared". This was enough to cause one of the mums to get out of her chair in disbelief, but she didn't need to throw any punches to protect the boys from further taunting because swagger man quickly moved over to the scorers and made similar remarks, to which they did not respond from sheer shock. Swagger man moved on to swagger slowly in front of many of the parents (of which I was one) looking at us in a way that we now believed to be almost daring us to say something. "Mum" who had got out of her chair with her fists clenched was restrained while she whispered "who the hell was that?" To which somebody replied "John Smith*" (clearly not his real name), "you know, the reverend."
I could not name a single emotion that I felt at that moment because I felt too many. I was already in shock and disbelief at what I had just witnessed, but then to realise that this was "the reverend" that I had previously heard about, I felt embarrassed on behalf of my faith, and angry at the disrepute this man was bringing upon Christianity in general. If those emotions weren't enough to deal with, I had one extra challenge..... I recognised John Smith's name. Some extended family members of mine had told me that they knew John Smith through the church and had mixed in Christian circles with him. All of this knowledge and emotion came rushing to me at once and I felt extremely upset and frustrated. I then started to shake.
The shakes came not because of my anger but because of fear. Fear because I already knew what I was going to do. I had decided that I was going to approach John and confront him about his behaviour. I had heard in the past that many people had approached John with a threat to punch him. That is certainly not my way, though I understand why John might cause a reaction like that in some people! I was going to put my best foot forward and use all of the skills I am continually preaching about (check my instagram account if you don't believe me!), using well formulated words and a respectful attitude. If John didn't practice what he preached, at least I would.
I walked the boundary line to the quiet spot where John was standing on the field, while 3 other parents were on the fence - they are testament to my respectful words and attitude. I said to John "Hi John" in a firm voice (to hide the quivering!) John didn't appear to be expecting this and looked to me and said hello. I told John that I had put two-and-two together and worked out who he was. I told him that I "had heard all about him in this [sporting] context" (it was left to him to assume that the reputation I had heard about wasn't good) and that I knew of him in his other context "at church". John was silent as I said this and then said "oh?" and I explained who I was in the context of my extended family whom he knew. At this point in the conversation, the other 3 parents who were standing there, would later reflect back and say "the look on his face was priceless".
I did not say more than those few sentences. I wanted to. I wanted to inflict hurt and embarrassment on John to take revenge for his taunt to our boys. But I knew that that would not be my best work, nor was it in line with my values of treating all people with respect - even if I didn't feel like he deserved it. Instead I made a comment about the weather to finish the conversation there. He walked off. Swagger significantly diminished.
I really hoped John wasn't off the hook. I hoped that he would realise that his Christian context was not invisible in this context, and that he had just shown himself to be very hypocritical in this instance. I also hoped the conversation would make him accountable for any future actions for the remainder of the game. No more taunts.
Word got around with our team - I helped spread it! - of my conversation with John. Many people commented how unusually quiet and reserved John was for the remaining day and a half of cricket. A fair few said they couldn't wait to read my blog about it - hence this.
That is the end of the story. These are my reflections on it:
If I am going to preach - in general or literally - I will practice it, otherwise I risk making myself, or whatever it is I am representing, look like a joke.
Know who you are and what you stand for, then stand for it. Stand for it in a way that is honest and respectful.
Confronting conflict head on is a proactive way to achieve positive outcomes. You can confront a difficult/awkward situation using well formulated words. You don't have to resort to aggression.
You can experience negative emotions, without having to act on them. By articulating and being aware of them, you are then in control and able to make a clear and informed decision about how you want to move forward.
I was angry with John for misrepresenting me in front of my friends - everyone knows I'm a Christian and they all look to me for answers when there is any "Christian issue". I took responsibility for my anger by confronting John about the problem. Once I had done that I considered it my responsibility to forgive and let it go. There was nothing more to be gained from ongoing nastiness, bitterness and resentment.
I may never see you again John, but incase you are reading this I do hope you are living a happy and successful life. I hope you are not making any of the people at sporting events around you, sad. I hope you are representing what you preach about on Sundays with ambitions of integrity. Thankyou for giving me the opportunity to stand up for what I believe in, in a manner that left a good impression on my friends. All the best John.
Kristy is the founder of Wellbalance. She is inspired to motivate leaders and workplaces toward proactive, effective and productive communication with their people, to achieve positive outcomes for all. Kristy enjoys long walks on the beach and holding hands at sunset (just joking - actually not really!) Kristy thrives on seeing relationships reach their full potential, and celebrates when people come to understand their true value - to love their flaws, accept their perceived failings and grow beyond these. She believes that the entire human race are healthier and happier when they CONNECT - with their people, GROW - in their self awareness and ability to engage with others, and LIVE - life to their full potential.